BANGOR, me. – Senator Susan Collins, Republican from Maine, claimed victory on Wednesday in her bid for a fifth term, fending off an avalanche of Democratic money and liberal anger in the toughest race of her career to defeat Sara Gideon, a Democrat, and strengthen the party’s grip on the Senate.
Her triumph, reported by The Associated Press, preserved Ms Collins’ status as New England’s only Republican in Congress. She became the first female senator in state history to be directly chosen by voters for a fifth term in the upper house, dashing Democratic hopes for a crucial recovery as their ambitions for a takeover of the Senate were hanging on by a thread.
Ms Collins, 67, who had lagged in most public polls this year, weathered the liberal tide in part by focusing her campaign on local issues and distancing herself from Mr Trump, refusing even to say whether she would vote for him.
Striving to preserve an image she has carefully cultivated as an independent-minded moderate, she reminded voters of her accomplishments for the state and underlined her likely rise to the head of the powerful Credit Committee, which allocates federal spending, if the Republicans retain a majority, as well as his personal connections in the state.
“I think this is an affirmation of the work I do in Washington to fight hard every day, to fight every day for the people of Maine,” Ms Collins said to a small crowd of masked supporters clapping in. Parking at the Hilton Garden Inn, shortly after Ms. Gideon called her to concede the race. “I will serve you with all my heart, I will work hard for you every day, and together we will come together to work on the issues and challenges facing our state and our country.”
National Democrats, furious after Ms Collins became a key vote in favor of Mr Trump’s tax plan and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court in 2018, had chosen Ms Collins as a priority target on their way to recover the majority in the Senate. As a result, the race had become the most expensive in Maine history, with national donors flooding the state with tens of millions of dollars and a wave of negative publicity.
Ms Gideon, the president of Maine’s House, had sought to frame the campaign as a referendum on Republicans, portraying Ms Collins as out of touch with the state and in tune with Mr Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the leader of the majority. She capitalized on the growing polarization of the state in the Trump era, as Democrats and independent voters grew increasingly frustrated with Ms Collins’ model of expressing distress at the President’s language and actions. , only to side with his party on crucial issues.
But Ms Gideon ultimately failed, failing to stop Ms Collins from reaching the 50% threshold required for outright victory in the state’s choice voting system. Republicans had feared the system would hurt her chances, potentially consolidating liberal opposition to her given the presence in the race of a progressive, Lisa Savage, who openly encouraged her supporters to list Ms Gideon as second choice. .
“The Mainers rallied to our campaign in a way I have never seen before, and while we were unsuccessful, I think the Mainers across this state are ready to keep working. together to make a difference, ”Ms. Gideon said. in a gloomy concession speech. “Whatever the outcome, we’ve built a movement together that will help us move forward for years to come.”
The pandemic offered Ms Collins the opportunity to counter the narrative by highlighting her work with Democrats, as she defended what would become a popular federal loan program to stabilize thousands of small businesses across the country in law stimulus of $ 2.2 trillion enacted in the spring. . The creation of the Paycheck Protection Program, along with a series of steps to revise and rebuild it, also provided Ms Collins in stark contrast to Ms Gideon, who adjourned the Legislature of the ‘State in March and failed to garner bipartisan support to meet there.
In the days leading up to Tuesday’s election, Ms Collins crisscrossed the state in her campaign bus, visiting small businesses that survived the pandemic by taking advantage of the loan program and towns in Maine that benefited from her work in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“I’m taking the same approach I’ve always taken,” Collins told reporters Wednesday. Earlier today, West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin III called her, she said, seeking to meet in the coming days to resolve the lingering deadlock over another relief program against coronaviruses.
Ms Collins, whose vote for Judge Kavanaugh prompted critics to raise nearly $ 4 million for her eventual opponent, further polished her credentials as a moderate willing to break with her party when Senate Republicans walked away. are rushed to fill the vacant Supreme Court post left in September by death. Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Ms Collins became one of only two senators from her party to oppose moving forward to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett ahead of the election, and the only one to vote “no.” She stressed her objections after her fellow Republicans blocked Judge Merrick B. Garland, President Barack Obama’s choice to succeed Judge Antonin Scalia after his death in 2016, as they insisted that such seat should not be filled in an election year.
With Republicans otherwise almost united to move forward, they did not need her vote anyway, and unusual circumstances allowed Ms Collins, who supports the right to abortion, to avoid the whether to confirm a candidate who personally opposed abortion.
Democrats scoffed at the vote, arguing it had no impact on the process and used the vote to try to increase Ms Gideon’s chances in the final days of the campaign.
But in the end, on a soundtrack to “Still the One” from Orleans and “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John screaming in the snowy hotel parking lot, Ms. Collins won.